June 12th, 2011
So many people email me asking me this question: What is the best way to learn English vocabulary?
I’ve given this a lot of thought and it’s not an easy one actually. I could give a lot of simple advice about different methods for improving English vocabulary that you probably already know but I don’t want to waste your time with that. I want to actually help you learn and remember. If you are learning new words and not remembering them, a very common problem, then you aren’t learning at all and you certainly haven’t found the best way.
Here is the thing. You really need to know and understand yourself and your personality. You need to know your own learning style and your strengths and weaknesses. You need to know what you like and what you find boring.
I personally like a combination of reading and listening. You probably already know that I learned Chinese by myself ie. I learned online instead of in a classroom. That was one of the main reasons that Add and I made this website. We knew it was actually possible to learn online. I found it fun. I think that was the main reason I kept studying.
Learning from dictionaries is a total waste of time and effort. You will only get at your “short term memory”. You might be able to remember words for a while but you will forget them after a very short while. If you can’t use what you learned in daily life, then you really didn’t learn at all if you are being totally honest with yourself.
I can give you a couple of tips that I think everyone can benefit from. Before I do that let me tell you about the coolest learning software program for vocab. I’ve personally seen over 10 friends use it and ALL of them improved a lot: Ultimate Vocabulary
1. Make sure you are learning the words that you want to actually use. If you don’t use the word in your own language than you won’t use it in a new language. Pay very close attention when you find some new word interesting.
2. You need quality examples of how to use the words in real sentences. If you don’t have these, you will forget fast. One reason that this podcast should help is that we use the same words over and over again. It will help the words “sink into” your brain. This process will make it much easier when it comes to speaking later.
3. Make sure you know what the new words are and how to spell them. This last one is very important and it’s something that I haven’t been great with to be honest. I don’t think spelling is as important as many people do. For example, it doesn’t matter if a word has 2 L’s or one. The important thing is that you know the necessary parts of each word. Native speakers make spelling mistakes all the time. But English learners very often make mistakes that show they really have no idea what the word is.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. There are thousands of examples but this one is a good one I think.
Let’s use the word “Character“. I think most people know how to spell this but a native speaker might make a mistake and think the word is “Karacter“ The second spelling is totally wrong but at least it shows that the speaker knows how the word should sound. A new learner might think the word is “Charater“. It almost looks correct but there is no “c” in the middle of the word. If you actually think that is the spelling, your pronunciation will be really bad. People won’t understand what you are trying to say. You will keep making mistakes over and over again until you finally learn the basic idea of the word. I hope this is making sense.
I usually don’t recommend other people’s learning material because I find it quite bad. I finally found one really good exception though. I’ve been using this vocabulary software program with some of my friends and I’ve really noticed a big difference in their understanding of words. They write much better now and they speak with better pronunciation and use a bigger and better vocabulary. In my opinion, the best way to learn English vocabulary is to use this product along with the podcasts here. Obviously, if you can read this, you are not a beginner. This is no time to be modest. Your English is already pretty good but I want to make it better so I’m going to recommend this. You can try it for free so there is nothing to lose. I’ve seen so many happy people who use this and I know that I need to tell you about it in case you might find it useful too. I think that by using it for 10-15 minutes every day, you will notice that your English is better in all areas and that you will be able to understand our podcasts much better. Here it is, check it out and let me know what you think. Learn English Vocabulary